How Social Entrepreneurs Mix Business with Social Responsibility to Solve Real Problems

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“Each of us feels some aspect of the world’s suffering acutely. And we must pay attention. We must act. This little corner of the world is ours to transform. This little corner of the world is ours to save.” – Stephen Cope, The Great Work of Your Life.

By Blessing Oyeleye (MBA Candidate, NYIT)

In my freshman year of college, I founded a non-profit to revolutionize science and technology participation among youths in Africa. I was young and I wanted to change the world. My parents begged of me to face my education and I slowly let parked that dream for some time in my future. Since then, I have worked for various Fortune 100 companies, and currently climbing the corporate ladder but when I look back at my younger self seven years ago, I know that I truly come alive when I know that I am working for a greater purpose.

My focus in the last five years as a blogger has being solely on enabling and empowering the next generation of women to become active economic agents. In the next decade, about one billion women are poised to enter the global economy. 97% of these women are in developing and emerging economies. The impact of women in the global economy – as producers, entrepreneurs, employees and consumers – will be at least as significant as that of China’s and India’s respective one-billion-plus populations.

Tapping into women’s economic potential would be equivalent to adding one billion individuals contributing to the global economy and stimulating growth. These phenomenon was detailed in studies conducted by Ernst & Young, Booz & Co, and McKinsey & Company, and it is appropriately named the “Third Billion Effect”. Research shows that economically empowering women is not only good for the women; it is also good for the societies they live in, as well as the next generation. It’s a multiplier effect for their family and society. Women are more likely to save money for the children’s college, a strategy that also increases literacy and strengthens their local economies.

Becoming a social entrepreneur is different from your typical entrepreneur.

For us, purpose is greater than profit and we are in it to discover, disrupt, and drive innovation. The positive impact is how we measure success and profit generally flows in because we get people to join us on this crazy journey of changing the world. In today’s world, generosity is the next frontier – people will pay more to make real impact.

As a result, social entrepreneurs are more interested in understanding the social, economic, political, and cultural context of the problems they are trying to solve than traditional entrepreneurs are.

We care about making money, but we focus equally on solving the problem.

And that is what makes us very successful, because we are analytical enough to create a business model based on research, evidence and data yet we are idealist enough to think we can change the world. If you lack these characteristics, you are not changing the world.

And then there is perspective. Some of us have experienced these problems first hand, hence the passion and resilience is there to give ourselves to the service of others even when it hurts. At the age of seventeen, I left the shores of West Africa to study in the United States. I did that because I wanted to escape patriarchy, the agony of being a female, and the painful evenings spent in the kitchen. I knew that wasn’t the life I wanted and I worked hard to get myself out of the ‘dungeon’ like me and my siblings now joke about. In so many ways, my journey to become a social entrepreneur comes from my leadership abilities and confidence combined with my dream of ensuring that women everywhere get have the same opportunity to boldly follow their dreams, achieve financial freedom and dignity.

Want to be a social entrepreneur? Find something you believe in. Choose your corner of the world that is worth saving.

Women 2.0 readers: Are you a social entrepreneur? Let us know what you want to change in the world in the comments below.

This post was originally posted at Think Feminist.

About the guest blogger: Blessing Oyeleye is currently pursuing her Energy MBA at the New York Institute of Technology. She is also working as a Project Manager at a Fortune 500 company. She describes herself as a feminist ninja, tech geek and connoisseur of design, travel, fashion and food. Above all she is a startup enthusiast. She holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Florida. She blogs at ThinkFeminist to encourage young women to follow their passion. Follow her on Twitter at @ThinkFeminist.